Monday, October 29, 2012

Week Recap

 This past Friday and Saturday I spent in PARADISE; I am sure of it! Here`s how it happened:
So a couple of weeks ago all the exchange students were told that there would be another feild trip with the university. Survivor weekend they called it. I was super excited, thinking I would have to start fires, eat berries, and compete in complicated challenges. As the trip drew closer, we got more details and I was sad to see that we would be staying the night in a hotel. What kind of survivor sleeps at a hotel in the night? One of the other exchange students talked with the director of the trip and told me that it was not going to be a very intense experience, just digging a hole maybe basic stuff. I was a little crushed but willing to go. 

Friday morning arrives and I finish packing the things I might need as a survivor: head lamp, bug repelent, and tennis shoes. I throw in my swim suit as an after thought that there might be a pool at the hotel. We all meet at the university and off we head!

When we arrived at our "hotel", I was rather confused. Was it a hotel? NO! It was an all inclusive resort. I saw a picture and map in the lobby of the extensive property and immediately knew I should have done some research before arriving. The Barcelo Montelimar is paradise. 

The huge property has everything: mini golf, a zoo, a beach, several pools, a gym, jacuzzi, a trollie, a club, restaurants. And its all unlimited (after the entrance fee, of course). Everything was clean and beautiful. Oh it was great! Suddenly the Survivor games that I had thought of before were of little importance, and I just wanted to relax. 

We did end up playing some the games, however. There was a fun scavenger hunt, a water game, and a knot tying contest, but then the rest of the weekend was for us to enjoy. I spent a lot of my time at the pool (pictured above). The thing is massive and in the middle on an island are a bunch of snacks and every drink all included. I tried a whole bunch of juices but my favorite was definitely Pantera Rosa.   
My Survivor tribe!
 When we got bored with the snack bar we headed to the restaurant. It is a buffet and offer everything: American, Italian, Nicaragua, sea food. Whatever you want, it is there and it was all very delicious. After eating there I was not so sure I wanted to put my swim suit back on haha. 

The greatest blessing had to be the rooms. They are set up like duoplex house so each duoplex has its own little front porch with a hammock. They were really super cute and came with.........(wait for it)....... air conditioning and hot water!!! Upon further reflection, I decided that the majority of the tourist here expected these two items and would have been angry had they not been included. However, for someone who has been living in Nicaragua for the last three months, they were unexpected blessings. I took three very long showers and slept all wrapped up in blankets and pillows. AMAZING!

 Overall the weekend was great. I felt super refreshed to be heading back to Managua after my small taste of luxury.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another Beach!

When a girl friend of mine invited me to go to the beach with her, I was super excited! We headed out on Saturday about midday for the adventure. The beach we visited was private, owned by a small community that lives around it. The majority of the community, however, is made of little beach houses, not by permanent residences. As a result, we had the beach to ourselves.

The drive to the community was a little sketch. The rain from hours earlier had washed large gorges into the dirt road and big puddles had accumilated. Luckily, however we made it to the beach in safety.

Although the clouds and distant rain make it look like a terrible day for the beach, it was quite the opposite. The water was warm and the clouds helped block the strong sun. It also made for some great pictures.

The day was great. We spent a couple of hours soaking in the water and playing in the waves. Then we headed home. As opposed to Arizona, its fun to think that I can travel to the beach and back in half a day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Octubre or Welcome to Rainy Season

I was somehow under the impression that I was coming to Nicaragua during the dry season. I think I can blame Wikipedia for the miscommunication. However, soon after arriving here I was told that raining season was just beginning and that October is always the wettest month. Coming from the dry desert of Arizona, I was a little shaken at the news. I wondered what to expect as visions of violent, tropical storms flooded my mind. However, as one third of October has already passed, I am not sure there is much to fear.

In fact, rainy season has not made life here much different for me, and I love it. The rain sometimes comes all at once, pounding against the roof-top, instantly drenching any laundry hanging out to dry, and then it all disappears minutes later. Sometimes dark clouds hang over head all day, just threatening to burst open, but for some reason never do. And then occassionally there are the days, like yesterday, where the rain falls just heavy enough to keep you from leaving the protection of home and it lingers on and on for hours.

However it comes, the rain is great for one main purpose: it cools this place down!! The temperature drops and for a couple hours I do not have to walk around sticky with sweat. So, October and rainy season, THANK YOU and Bienvenidos a Nicaragua! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Weekend Recap

This weekend was pretty laid back. I spent Saturday and Sunday watching General Conference, which did not leave time for much anything else, but was definitely inspiring.

At first I was bummed out that I would miss watching it at my house. Normally, my family buys and makes a whole bunch of food (cheese dip, salsa, chips, fruit salad, sticky popcorn, and loads of candy) and we all crowd into the tv room, staking out our territory around the room with numerous blankets and pillows. This makes watching the eight hours of Conference go by fast and in comfort.

The idea of having to travel to the church building, get all dressed up, and sit in a pew for eight hours seemed less than inviting. However, without access to a computer, it was my only option. SO come Saturday morning I arose bright and early to prepare myself.

I was a little leering when at 9:30 the church building was still locked and only about three people and a group of missionaries had showed up. Luckily, a missionary finally showed up with the keys and after hoping the church's fence, he let us in.

Attending conference at the church building was a great experience. Instead of slowly falling asleep by the end of each session, I remained alert and listening. It definitely invited a stronger spirit, so I would encourage all to try it out if you have not before. It was GREAT!!

P.S If you missed out on Conference or want to know more about Mormonism or LDS conference you can go to!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Part Two

The fun weekend continued on Sunday when I took off for Leon. For this trip I went with the other exchange students and students from UAM. Again Leon is only about an hour away from Managua, so we got there in no time. The city resembles that of Granada, colorful buildings and security. BUT, we were not there to look at the city. We were there to sandboard! 

We pulled up to Bigfoot, the official sandboarding company to grab our gear and get started on this crazy adventure.

The truck we got to ride in through the jungle for an hour!

 From the truck, we got the first glimspe of how crazy we were for agreeing to do this.  This is Volcano Cerro Negro. It is still active, but when it is not erupting, Nicas use it for entertainment.

Let me take a second to describe sandboarding. We were going to climb up the volcano carrying our board (basically a piece of plywood with a rope attached to it). Then once at the top we sit on the boards and slide down the side of the volcano. It sounded fun, but as we got closer, I had my doubts!

Here I am all ready to go with my board and everything!

We began our climb up the mountain quickly becoming exhausted. At first, the footing was certain and easy. However, as we got higher the ground changed into loose rock and sand that tired everyone. 

We did make it to the top in a little over an hour. The views were amazing!

 After messing around on the top of the volcano, it was time to face our fates. Haha we put on these lovely orange clown suits and lined up to head down!
The anxiety built in me as I sat waiting for the signal to go. However, after a quick prayer for safety, I felt much better and was even getting impatient that the person in front of me was taking sooo long. Finally, I was able to launch of!!!

Here is what it looks like:

 At the bottom, a man records your time. I clocked in at 44 kph (about 27 mph)!(The record time at Bigfoot is 90kph)  It was exhillarating. I was covered in sand and rock and had a mouthful of dust by the time I reached the end, but it was all worth it.

It was a great experience and definitely something I will have to tell the grandchildren when I am old and crimpled.

"You think I am old and boring now? When I was your age, I slide down an active volcano on my behind!"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Weekend Recap....Part 1

This weekend was a blast! I got to visit Granada and Leon, two old cities that are about an hour away from Managua. They were beautiful. Here`s a peek at Granada:

 The city center is gorgeous. I did not feel like I was in Nicaragua at all. Although I have been completely safe in Managua, Granada seemed even better. Here people can walk around at all hours of the day and do not have to worry. That feeling definitely made me miss home.
There is also a higher percentage of gringos in Granada. I think its because every tourist falls in love with the vibes, arquitecture, and views. I sure did!

After a quick walk around the city center, Manfred and I decided to take a boat tour of the islands. Lake Nicaragua is huge, and is home to over 400 different islands. Another fun fact: its the only fresh water lake where sharks live!! Bullsharks lurk somewhere in the waters; I heard they are not dangerous though.  

 The boat tour was an hour long and cost 300 cordobas (about $15 US dollars). They originally attempted to charge us 500 cordobas so be careful and make sure you do not overpay. When I was talking to a friend she said she went on the same tour for only 200 cordobas, so I guess we too could have gotten a better deal.

The majority of the islands that we saw were owned and occupied by houses, hotels, restaurants, and bars. On one island there is a house that you can rent for three days for $300 US dollars. It looked beautiful.

Another small island is home to four monkeys. They have the perfect home because it is big enough for them, but small enough that they get lots of exposure to tourists.

Throughout the tour, the guides handed me lots of local flowers. The purple and white flowers are both water lilies that grow in clusters in the lake. The pink and yellow flower (far right) is the national flower of Nicaragua, and the flower in the middle, I do not know anything about except that it is GORGEOUS.

The entire city was amazing and laidback. It is definitely a location I will have to return to!